Law firm marketing: the basics your law firm needs to know

Learn about the ways of doing law firm marketing, the rules on how lawyers should do advertising, plus advice from marketing experts

Law firm marketing: the basics your law firm needs to know
Law firm marketing is an important tool in building a law firm’s brand

As a practising lawyer, you’d hope that it would be as easy as hanging out a shingle, like in the “olden days,” as your go-to law firm marketing plan. Despite the internet — in fact, maybe even because of it — it’s getting harder to stand out in the legal industry nowadays.

So, what is a good law firm marketing strategy? And how is it even relevant with today’s legal practice? In this article, we’ll talk about the answers to these questions, plus more.

What is law firm marketing?

Law firm marketing uses various strategies to attract clients to your firm’s legal services. It follows the methods of common marketing but is targeted towards people who need legal services and highlights you and/or your firm’s competence. By promoting your legal services to the public, you increase your visibility compared to other lawyers in the same field or area as yours.

Importance of marketing in a law firm

You may wonder if law firm marketing is even necessary; after all, isn’t it that your services and your client’s success are the things that should matter? While these are true, establishing one’s presence in the community is where everything starts — and law firm marketing can help you with that.

“You can be a brilliant lawyer, but if no one knows who you are, what good is that?” says Tony Poland, co-founder of Legal Matters Canada. He also points out that with more than 20 law schools in Canada, hundreds of new lawyers are called to the bar each year.

Making lawyers and firms widely known

Poland says that the whole point of law firm marketing in all its forms these days is getting a lawyer’s name out there into the wider world. Whether it’s through a flashy website, Facebook ads, innovative content marketing, or having lively debates on Twitter, the key is harnessing the power of the Internet.

“All roads in law firm marketing inevitably will lead to the internet,” he says. “When someone looks for a lawyer these days, they typically turn to a Google search, and taking advantage of that is a vital part of how to market your law firm."

In addition, law firm marketing can help develop a customer base for you and/or your firm. This can later be expanded with other marketing strategies.

Brand awareness of law firms

Law firm marketing is not only a tool that is used to develop an awareness of the firm’s brand. It's also used to create brand awareness for each one of the lawyers at the firm, says Shelly Dhingra. She is currently the Director of Marketing and Business Development at Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP in Toronto.

“My role as a legal marketer is to make sure that our lawyers’ personal brands are marketed as well as the firm’s brand,” Dhingra says.

As an intro of how law firm marketing works, watch this video:

To find out how law firm marketing and client services intersect, read this opinion piece on digital marketing and client relationships.

Types of law firm marketing

There are two basic mediums that you can factor in when planning your law firm marketing strategy:

  • print or traditional
  • digital or online

Under these two mediums are different kinds of strategies that you can use (which may or may not have that strict difference anymore because of marketing’s evolving nature):

  • media ads (TV or radio)
  • print ads (in newspapers or magazines)
  • website
  • blogging and/or vlogging
  • email marketing
  • online profiles (in Facebook, X formerly Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.)

What are the Canadian laws and rules on law firm marketing?

Before going into the best marketing strategies that work for your law firm, it’s important to refresh our memory on the laws and rules of law firm marketing. For this, we turn to the marketing rules by the law societies, which regulate the practice of law in their areas. Read our article on the Law Society of Ontario’s rules for marketing legal services for an example.

Law societies’ rules on law firm marketing

Lawyers in Canada are allowed to advertise their services to the public. However, this permission is subject to certain conditions set by the provincial and territorial law societies’ code of conduct.

Discussions below are based on the Model Code of Professional Conduct (the Model Code) of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC). Check your own Law Society’s rules on the marketing and advertising of legal services.

When advertising of legal services is allowed

Under the Model Code, when making their legal services available to the public, lawyers must not use any means that:

  • are false or misleading
  • amounts to coercion, duress, or harassment
  • takes advantage of a vulnerable person, or those who suffered a traumatic experience and have not yet recovered
  • brings the legal profession or the administration of justice into disrepute

The Model Code allows the advertising and marketing of professional services by lawyers. This marketing must:

  • be true, accurate, and verifiable
  • not be or is likely to be misleading, confusing, or deceptive
  • be in the best interests of the public
  • be consistent with a high standard of professionalism

Do’s and don'ts of law firm marketing

The Model Code’s commentaries and provisions set out some examples on the allowed and prohibited marketing practices:

 Allowed and prohibited practices of law firm marketing in Canada

Penalty for violating lawyers and firms

When found guilty by a law society for violating these prohibitions, various penalties may be imposed depending on the violation. On a 2019 tribunal case by the Law Society of Ontario against its erring member, its penalty consisted of a reprimand and payment of fines. However, in other more serious cases, suspension may be ordered against the lawyer.

How does law firm marketing work?

To give you some ideas on how law firm marketing works, let’s look at marketing in general, and apply it to law firms and legal professionals. While there are a lot of marketing models out there, here's a simple four-stage process that you can follow when you’re developing your marketing plan:

  1. research: understanding your firm and your target market
  2. planning: doing the marketing plan
  3. implementation: executing the marketing plan
  4. evaluation: checking whether the marketing plan was effective, and going back to step 1 if it wasn’t

Factors to consider for law firm marketing

Law firm marketing consumes a lot of your time and resources, which is why it must be thought out well. Here are some factors that you should consider during the research stage of preparing a marketing plan:

Target clients

  • your potential clients
  • their demographics
  • where are they found
  • their possible legal needs
  • amount they’re willing to pay for these needs

Ad's message

  • who you are
  • your brand or the image you want to portray
  • what practice area or services do you specialize in (if any)
  • how this message should reach your target clients

Another important factor to consider in law firm marketing is the budget; not all those plans would work out if there’s nothing to finance it. The budget would also depend on the type of strategy or tactics you’re planning.

If your firm has a limited budget, especially when you’re just starting out, there are marketing strategies that can be free of charge. For example:

  • start Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles as ad-less accounts
  • make your firm more visible by strategizing its visuals and physical location
  • use online free listing services (e.g. Google My Business)

Use a mix of traditional media and modern technologies

Nowadays, putting up a newspaper ad may not be as effective as it was years ago. That is why a marketing plan must include a mix of different media and technologies. Today, the role of law firm marketing includes strategies, such as:

  • maximizing your website
  • using search engine optimization (SEO) to get you at the top of search results
  • launching email campaigns
  • creating a social media profile

“There are big differences between what we think of as traditional advertising — like radio and TV ads — and other types of marketing,” says Toronto-based employment lawyer Stuart Rudner. “Both types have their place.”

While he puts more effort into non-advertising types of marketing, he recently bought a radio ad campaign that worked well. Because of the more consumer-facing nature of employment law (like personal injury law), direct ads work effectively.

Rudner says there are many things you can do yourself when it comes to reaching out to potential clients through law firm marketing. This includes writing a blog post on your practice area and keeping active on social media like X. But it might also cost you, especially if you want to bring the experts in to deal with SEO or ghostwrite blog posts so that you can do the lawyering.

How important is having a good LinkedIn bio? It’s crucial. Find out more in this article on how to thrive in legal marketing.

Use websites effectively

Among the more effective methods of any marketing plan, says Poland, is compelling content so that a potential client visits your website instead of the site of another lawyer. A website with a blog can be very effective in generating interest in your law firm.

The website can also include thoughtful posts on important legal matters or that essential legal advice for the public. All these can help build your stature as a person knowledgeable in your area of practice. However, if you are too busy practicing law to write your blogs regularly, turning to a brand marketing specialist may be the answer.

Dhingra says that using the firm’s website is all about “showcasing who we are.” It also provides prospective clients with information on legal issues that can give insight into possible solutions.

Invest in professional SEO services

Starting a law firm website and keeping it up to date with fresh, high-quality content is the significant first step toward law firm marketing. But you likely will need to invest in professional SEO services that will help your firm to rank on Google when prospective clients search specific keywords, such as:

  • “personal injury lawyer Vancouver” or
  • “divorce lawyer Halifax”

“SEO does take a bit of time to build — it’s a living, breathing thing,” says Dhingra, who uses a third party to optimize the website. “You always have to be looking at what’s working and what isn’t. If some of the keywords that we have selected are not performing well, we’re constantly fine tuning that to make sure we are or are choosing the best way to get in touch with our clients and potential clients.”

Rudner echoes the advice about working with an SEO agency. “Google is constantly changing its algorithm. And it would help if you worked with a good SEO organization that stays on top of these algorithm changes because they can drastically affect your rankings.” An effective SEO strategy can help boost search engine rankings for your law firm.

Use a landing page

Another advantage when using modern advertising is using a landing page. This is a standalone web page created specifically for a marketing or advertising campaign. It’s where a visitor “lands” after they click on:

  • a link in an email; or
  • ads from Google, Bing, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, X; or
  • other similar places on the web

Unlike web pages, which typically have many goals and encourage exploration, landing pages are designed with a single focus or purpose, known as a call to action.

Improve your online presence

A business profile on Instagram and Facebook can be a big part of reaching the right people. It allows you to run targeted ads on the news feeds of people within your area, to a particular age group, or with specific interests. X or LinkedIn is also a great place to share posts about your practice area, interact with followers through likes and comments, and respond to messages that you receive.

Using social media is a great marketing tactic that doesn’t cost money. However, be careful about going down the rabbit hole of getting into long, drawn-out debates on controversial topics. You could spend all day fighting with the trolls rather than practicing law.

Rudner says he has used LinkedIn quite effectively as a law firm marketing tool, especially when marketing to other lawyers or HR professionals. “It’s a great way to get my name out there and to be top of mind when people have issues,” he says, but adds a pithy comment on X or Instagram can also work well.

Build relationships with everyone

A classic and free form of advertising is through word of mouth. Clients may refer your firm to their family and friends, or peers who can remember you when they turn down clients whom they can’t handle anymore. All of these are effortless and expense-free strategies, which may even come naturally over the years.

One way to ensure that this works out your way is building your relationships with everyone — not just your existing clients. It also includes:

  • becoming friends with lawyers in your area
  • be an active member of your law society
  • associating yourself with local law organizations or other entities (associations, societies, or foundations) in your province that are related to your practice

Create an email marketing presence

Another way of building and maintaining relationships with your clients and leads is by developing an email marketing campaign. These are automated emails that keep your firm’s name at the forefront.

Dhingra says that a key benefit of these campaigns is keeping up with those you have worked for, as they can be a great source of referrals. Many people in need of a lawyer will consult the internet and talk to family and friends before choosing a lawyer. Asking happy clients to post a testimonial can also be an important part of your law firm marketing.

Law firm marketing is a long game

In law firm marketing, it’s the long game that counts. This also goes back to the idea that marketing isn’t something that works magically overnight. Creating a long-term marketing plan, implementing it, and seeing its actual results can take months — and even years — before you should expect to see results.

For example, it might take months of SEO work to get top rankings on Google, and someone may click on your Facebook several times before even contacting you.

Marketers also talk about the “Rule of 7,” which says that a prospective client will have to see your face or read your ads seven or more times to encourage them to reach out. Based on this theory, long-term vision is essential. You really can’t expect those who have legal concerns to immediately contact you after just seeing your ad once or twice.

As such, don’t expect too much too quickly and don’t blow the marketing nest egg all in one place. Experts say that what’s important is to have a law firm marketing plan and the budget to cover it in the first place.

Bookmark our Practice Management section for more content like how law firm marketing works and other how-tos when running a law firm.

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